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you banged on the desk. Our servants were all retired or "resting"
from show business. A gentleman called Rattlesnake-Oil Emery
was handyman. One of the waitresses had done bird calls in a tent
show. My father was very fond of people like that.
Well, where I do see some kind of "Rosebud," perhaps, is in
that world of Grand Detour. A childhood there was like a childhood back in the 1870s. No electric light, horse-drawn buggies-a
completely anachronistic, old-fashioned, early-Tarkington, rural
kind of life, with a country store that had above it a ballroom with
an old dance floor with springs in it, so that folks would feel light
on their feet. When I was little, nobody had danced up there for
many years, but I used to sneak up at night and dance by moonlight with the dust rising from the floor.... Grand Detour was
one of those lost worlds, one of those Edens that you get thrown
out of. It really was kind of invented by my father. He's the one
who kept out the cars and the electric lights. It was one of the
"Merrie Englands." Imagine: he smoked his own sausages. You'd
wake up in the morning to the sound of the folks in the bake
house, and the smells.... I feel as though I've had a childhood in
the last century from those short summers.
PB: It reminds me of Ambersons. You do have a fondness for things
of the past, thoughOW: Oh yes. For that Eden people lose ... It's a theme that interests
me. A nostalgia for the garden-it's a recurring theme in all our
PB: Kane lost his Eden when the bank took him from his home, and
you lost yoursOW: -in Grand Detour? It was called Grand Detour because the
Rock River circles there-it's almost an island. I never even saw
the ruins of my father's hotel. It really was a marvelous little corner in time, a kind offorgotten place....
PB: How old were you in those years?
OW: I don't know exactly. It was just before and during my time at
Todd. It burned down the year before he died, with all his jade
collection in it. And he came out of the fire in his nightshirt after
everybody thought that all was lost---came out of the flames with a
bird cage and, under his arm, a framed picture of Trixi Friganza.
She'd been one of his old girlfriends.... Can I go now?
OW: Good night.

How I Broke the Rules in Citizen Kane

good deal of gratifying discussion recently about the

photography of Orson Welles's first movie, Citizen Kane. The gist of
the talk has been that the cinematography in that film was "daring" and
"advanced," and that I violated all the photographic commandments and
conventions in shooting the picture.
Right away I want to make a distinction between "commandment" and
"convention." Photographically speaking, I understand a commandment to
be a rule, axiom, or principle, an incontrovertible fact of photographic
procedure which is unchangeable for physical and chemical reasons. On
the other hand, a convention, to me, is a usage which has become acceptable through repetition. It is a tradition rather than a rule. With time the
convention becomes a commandment, through force of habit. I feel that
the limiting effect is both obvious and unfortunate.
With these definitions in mind, I'll admit that I defied a good many conventions in filming Citizen Kane. Orson Welles was insistent that the story
be told most effectively, letting the Hollywood conventions of movie-making
go hang if need be. With such whole-hearted backing I was able to test and
prove several ideas generally accepted as being radical in Hollywood circles.
Welles's use of the cinematographer as a real aid to him in telling the
story, and his appreciation of the camera's story-telling potentialities
helped me immeasurably. He was willing-and this is very rare in
Hollywood-that I take weeks to achieve a desired photographic effect.
The photographic approach to Citizen Kane was planned and considered long before the first camera turned. That is also unconventional in
Hollywood, where most cinematographers learn of their next assignments
only a few days before the scheduled shooting starts. Altogether, I was on
the job for a half year, including preparation and actual shooting.
Although it was Welles's first effort in movies, he came to the job with a
rare vision and understanding of camera purpose and direction. It was his
idea that the technique of filming should never be evident to the audience.
He wanted to avoid the established Hollywood conventions, most of
which are accepted by audiences because of their frequent use. And this
frequent use of conventions is dictated by pressure of time and reluctance
to deviate from the accepted.
As a case in point, depth of field nearly always is sacrificed in
Hollywood productions. The normal human eye sees everything before it

Originally published in Popular Photography Magazine 8 Oune 1941): 55.



(within reasonable distance) clearly and sharply. There is no special or single center of visual sharpness in real life. But the Hollywood cameras focus
on a center of interest, and allow the other components of a scene to "fuzz
out" in those regions before and beyond the focal point.
The attainment of an approximate human eye focus was one of our fundamental aims in Citizen Kane. It took a great deal of doing, but we
proved that it can be done.
We solved the depth-of-field problem by means of preproduction testing and experiment. We built our system of "visual reality" on the wellknown fact that lenses of shorter focal length are characterized by
comparatively greater depth, and that stopping down a lens increases the
depth even further.
The tendency in Hollywood has been to stop down to /3.5 occasionally
in filming interiors. More often the working aperture is betweenj2.3 and
/3.2. The use of the /3.5 aperture is still uncommon enough to be cause
for conversation in the film capital. Yet any professional or amateur who
has used short-focus lenses knows that the increase in depth obtained by
stopping down fromj2.3 to/3.5 can make quite a difference.
But we wanted to stop down considerably further. By experimenting
with high-speed films we discovered that lens aperture could be reduced
appreciably, but that we still weren't able to stop down enough for our
purposes. This meant that an increased illumination level had to be
obtained. And since we were already violating Hollywood tradition by
using ceilinged sets, we were unable to step up illumination by means of
extra lights mounted on catwalks or strung above the scene.
The Yard "Opticoating" system developed at the California Institute of
Technology, proved to be one factor in the eventual solution of our lighting problem. Being essentially a method of treating lens surfaces,
Opticoating eliminates refraction, permits light to penetrate instead of
scattering, and thus increases lens speed by as much as a full stop. Our
coated lenses also permitted us to shoot directly into lights without anything like the dire results usually encountered.
Another aid in solving our small-aperture problem was the twin-arc
broadside lamp, developed for Technicolor work. We began to employ
these lamps before we hit upon the use of the high-speed film which we
eventually chose. The combination of coated lenses, arc broadside lamps,
and the fastest available film made it possible to photograph nearly all
interior scenes at an aperture ofj8 or even smaller. I shot several scenes at
/11 andfl6. That's a big jump fromj2.3 and it's certainly unconventional
in Hollywood filming.
Even the standard 47- and 50-mm. lenses afford great depth of field
when stopped down to/11 or/16. And the shorter-focus Wide-angle lenses
act virtually like human eyes, providing almost universal focus at such




small apertures. In some cases we were able to hold sharp focus over a
depth of 200 feet.
I referred previously to the unconventional use of ceilinged sets. The
Citizen Kane sets have ceilings because we wanted reality, and we felt that
it would be easier to believe a room was a room if its ceiling could be seen
in the picture. Furthermore, lighting effects in unceilinged rooms generally
are not realistic because the illumination comes from unnatural angles.
We planned most of our camera setups to take advantage of the ceilings, in some cases even building the sets so as to permit shooting upward
from floor level. None of the sets was rigged for overhead lighting,
although occasionally necessary backlighting was arranged by lifting a
small section of the ceiling and using a light through the opening. The
deep sets called for unusually penetrating lamps, and the twin-arc broadsides mentioned earlier filled the bill. The ceilings gave us another advantage in addition to realism-freedom from worry about microphone
shadow, the bugaboo of all sound filming. We..wcre..-.able.-to place our
mikes. above the muslin ceiling. which .allowed. them tu.pl<;kill? sound but
got to throw shadows.
.'. - ..
There were other violations of Hollywood tradition in the photographic
details of Citizen Kane. One of them resulted from Welles's insistence that
scenes should flow together smoothly and imperceptibly. Accordingly,
before actual shooting began, everything had been planned with full realization of what the camera could bring to the audience. We arranged our
action so as to avoid direct cuts, to permit panning or dollying from one
angle to another whenever that type of camera action fitted the continuity.
By way of example, scenes which conventionally would require a shift
from closeup to full shot were planned so that the action would take place
simultaneously in extreme foreground and extreme background.
Our constant efforts toward increasing realism and making mechanical
details imperceptible led eventually to the solution of all the problems we
had created for ourselves. As we avoided direct cuts, so we steered clear
of traditional transitions. Most of the transitions in Citizen Kane are lapdissolves in which the background dissolves from one scene to the next
shortly before the players in the foreground are dissolved. This was
accomplished rather simply with two light-dimming outfits, one for the
actors and one for the set.
.by.dilll!I1i!l.8. !he ..o_l}.
outentirdy:.. to
produce a fade-out The fade-in is made the same way, fading in
the set lights first, then the lights for the people.
Intercutting was eliminated wherever possible, with the idea of achieving further visual Simplification. Instead of following the usual practice of
cutting from a close-up to an "insert" (which explains or elaborates upon


the close-up), we made a single, straight shot, compressing the whole

scene into a single composition.
Here's an example. Where the idea is, to show an actor reading something, we don't show a close-up of the actor and then follow it with a cut
to the reading matter "insert." We simply compose the shot with the
actor's head on one side of the frame and the reading matter on the other.
In one such case in the filming of Citizen Kane the actor's head was less
than sixteen inches from the lens, the reading matter was about three feet
away, and a group of men in the background was twelve to eighteen feet
away. 'Yet all three components of this scene-actor in foreground, reading matter, and group---are sharp and clear to the audience.
My focusing was based on the principle of depth of field. Knowing the
focal length and other characteristics of the lenses we were using, I
worked out the various focal points as I came to them. By following a
depth-of-field table in using any lens, you can always tell just where to set
your focus in order to attain overall sharpness within required limits. It's
an important fact, however, that much depends upon the properties of the
lens in use at the time-and its characteristics should be determined carefully before any attempt is made to use this zone-focusing technique.
Such differences as exist between the cinematography in Citizen Kane
and the camera work on the average Hollywood product are based on the
rare opportunity provided me by Orson Welles, who was in complete sympathy with my theory that the photography should fit the story. I have
been trying to follow that principle for some time in an effort to provide
visual variety as well as a proper photographic vehicle for the plot. Fitting
Wuthering Heights and Grapes of Wrath and Long Voyage Home to an
identical photographic pattern would be unfair to director, writer, actors,
and audience.
Style too often becomes deadly sameness. In my opinion, the day of
highly stylized cinematography is passing, and is being superseded by a
candid, realistic technique and an individual approach to each new film
You will accomplish much more by fitting your photography to the
story instead of limiting the story to the narrow confines of conventional
photographic practice. And as you do so you'll learn that the movie camera is a flexible instrument, with many of its possibilities still unexplored.
New realms remain to be discovered by amateurs and professionals who
are willing to think about it and take the necessary time to make the
thought a reality.

Score for a Film


KANE was the first motion picture on which I had ever worked. I
had heard of the many handicaps that exist for a composer in
Hollywood. One was the great speed with which scores often had to be
written-sometimes in as little as two or three weeks. Another was that the
composer seldom had time to do his own orchestration. And again-that
once the music was written and conduct>d:the composer had little to say
about the sound levels or dynamics of the score in the finished film.
Not one of these conditions prevailed during the production of Citizen
I was given twelve weeks in which to do my job. This not only gave me
ample time to think about the film and to work out a general artistic plan
for the score, but also enabled me to do my own orchestration and conducting.
I worked on the film, reel by reel, as it was being shot and cut. In this
way I had a sense of the picture being built, and of my own music being a
part of that building. Most musical scores in Hollywood are written after
the film is entirely finished, and the composer must adapt his music to the
scenes on the screen. In many scenes in Citizen Kane an entirely different
method was used, many of the sequences being tailored to match the
This was particularly true in the numerous photographic "montages,"
which are used throughout the film to denote the passing of time. When I
first saw the picture I felt that it might be interesting to write complete
musical numbers for these montages. In other words, instead of a mere
atmospheric or rhythmic cue, a brief piece would be written. Welles
agreed, and once the music was set, cut many of his sequences to match
the length of the pieces.
The most striking illustration of this method may be found in the
"breakfast montage" between Kane and his first wife. Here, in the space of
three of four minutes, Welles shows the rise and fall of affection between
two married people. The setting is a breakfast table. The young couple
enters, gay and very much in love. They talk for a few seconds, then the
scene changes. Once more we see them at the breakfast table, but the
atmosphere has changed. Discord is beginning to creep into the conversation. Brief scene after brief scene follows, each showing the gradual break-

Originally published in The New York Times, May 25, 1941. Reprinted by permission of]be
New York Times.